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Geographical Index > United States > Malaysia (International) > Article # 521

Media Article # 521

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Malaysian Official Expresses Doubts

Xinhua Online [China View]

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Natural Resources and Environment Ministry thinks stories about the Bigfoot creatures in the jungles of Johor state are just a hoax, a newspaper report said Saturday.

There has been no concrete evidence to back up the creature's existence in the jungles of the southernmost state, said the ministry's parliamentary secretary Sazmi Miah.

No droppings or hair of the so-called ape man-like creatures have ever been found, Sazmi told the New Straits Times (NST).

He said the state Wildlife Department had been monitoring the jungles of Johor for the past 40 years and remote-sensing cameras were also set up there a few years ago to capture animal's movements.

However, so far all the sightings were of known animals, said Sazmi.

He believed the hoax was perpetrated by certain quarters to generate interest among foreign scientists who were interested in obtaining the jungle's lush flora and fauna.

On the other hand, the ministry's stand has not gone down well with the Johor state government which is keeping an open mind on the matter.

Johor's Tourism and Environment Committee Chairman Freddie Long refuted Sazmi's remarks, stressing no one can simply dismiss the existence of Bigfoot.

"We are very keen to pursue this and welcome researchers and scientists to contact us on their investigations into the Johor Bigfoot," he was quoted as saying by the NST report.

Bigfoot fever has been revived since last November when three workers in Johor were reported to have said they spotted some huge creatures in the jungles which left gap-toothed footprints up to 45cm long.

Bibliographical Information:

This article was a re-write of the original article in Malaysia. The misleading headline in Xinhua was "Bigfoot creatures in Malaysian jungles just hoax".

BFRO Commentary:

Datuk Sazmi Miah, the parliamentary secretary for Malaysia's Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, expressed his own personal doubts about the possible existence of giant apes, for the following reasons:

1) No physical remains have been collected and delivered (so far) to scientists in Malaysia.
2) No scat has been collected and delivered (so far) to scientists in Malaysia.
3) The Malaysia government has been "monitoring" the forests in peninsular Malaysia for the past 40 years but never stumbled upon a bigfoot.
4) Motion-activated cameras have been set up for the past few years, but have yet to obtain a photo of a bigfoot.

The issue of bones and scat has been addressed many times before. In a nutshell: Wildlife biologists will tell you not to expect to find bones or scat of a rare species, especially in tropical forests.

Animal remains get recycled in forests quickly. Scats of very abundant animals will be noticed and identified often, but the scat of rare animals might not be noticed very often, and it would not look very different from bear scat or various other large non-ungulate mammals when it is noticed.

Only a trained biologist would pay attention to a bigfoot scat, especially in a country with many large wild animals, unless the finder actually observed the bigfoot producing it.

The issue of "monitoring" a forest with automated cameras needs to be addressed.

Datuk Sazmi Miah does not appreciate the mathematics of his opinion. He does not mention the number of cameras that have been set up, nor the amount of rainforest that is truly "monitored" day and night.

It is doubtful that the number of automated cameras deployed by the Malaysia government, exceeds 50. If there were more than 50, it would put Malaysia at the top end of the spectrum, in terms of the number of automated cameras deployed by a government to monitor its wildlife.

Automated cameras, such as those mentioned in this article, typically have a trigger range of less than 8 meters, and an angle of view of less than 30 degrees. So the amount of peninsular Malaysia forest that is actually "monitored" by one of these cameras is less than seventeen (17) square meters. Seventeen square meters is a very small pie-slice of land, relatively speaking. Even with a few dozen of these cameras deployed, there is almost no coverage. Much, much more forest land would need to have camera coverage before one could reasonably rule out a species based on a lack of photos.

The disparity between the amount of camera coverage and the amount of potential habitat, could be compared to the coverage of a butterfly's tip-toe over an extra large soccer field. Not much is covered.

Assume that Malaysia actually has 50 automated cameras set up and running at all times (a very, very generous assumption). This would mean that 850 square meters (17x50) of peninsular Malaysia forest is "monitored" by these cameras.

Taman Negara National Park alone (it is not the only national park in peninsular Malaysia) is 4,343 square kilometers. A single square kilometer contains no less than 1 million square meters, by definition. Therefore, the number of square meters in Taman Negara is roughly 4,343,000,000.

If all 50 of Malaysia's hypothetical automated cameras were concentrated in Taman Negara, then the amount of coverage is about .0000196 percent of the park.

It would be safe to assume that there is at least 6000 kmē of willd forest habitat in peninsular Malaysia.

Automated cameras are useful for photographing common species that can be lured with bait. The BFRO has had extensive experience automated cameras in the context of bigfoot research. They are only practical in situations where there have been repeated visits to a very specific spot, such as a cave or a chicken coop. Anything else is an extreme long shot.

The lack of bigfoot photos obtained by randomly placed automated cameras, is simply not relevant to the issue of whether bigfoots exist in a given area.

The only evidence that would strongly suggest the total absence of giant apes in Malaysia would be a complete lack of credible eyewitnesses in Malaysia. This is the case in Western Europe, for example. The total lack of eyewitnesses in Western Europe (compared to thousands in North America) strongly suggests there are no bigfoots in Western Europe.

Previous articles from Malaysia indicated that there are "a lot of witnesses" there. If there are not a lot of eyewitness in Malaysia, then perhaps the ministry's attitude is justified.

If there are some good, credible witnesses in Malaysia, then this is enough evidence for the Environment Ministry to at least avoid making statements that would discourage others from reporting their own sightings or track finds.

No official in Malaysia should do anything to discourage potential witnesses from speaking up.

The prize might be delivered by the public, so the gov must show receptiveness to any relevant information. Declaring the whole thing to be a "hoax" makes the government seem unreceptive to further information from the public.

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